Today I’m going to be talking about Pandemic: Legacy! If you’re into board games at all you’ve no doubt heard about this as it’s been the biggest release of the year, and has received almost unanimous plaudits. Pandemic is a co-operative game in which players are trying to prevent and cure diseases from spreading over the world. The legacy part is a system whereby the game changes over time. New rules get added, secret compartments are opened, stickers are placed on the board etc.
Risk Legacy was released last year to much acclaim but, with all due respect to that game, it’s still Risk. That campaign lasts for 15 games, and so far I’ve done three of those. Already I’ve played Pandemic Legacy six times. It takes place over the year, so there’s a minimum of twelve games, but if you lose a month you replay it once before moving on, so a maximum of 24 games.
There are some people who find this idea incredulous, and I can see why. After all, usually if you buy a board game then it’s yours forever, or as long as you want it. Pandemic Legacy is consumable, so it’s understandable that people may be unwilling to part with around £50 for a game that they’re only going to be playing a finite number of times. But I think it’s important to note here that you’re not necessarily paying for the game, you’re also paying for the experience.
That’s where I’m coming from anyway (even though technically I didn’t pay anything for this because it was an early Christmas present, but had I not received it as a present I was going to get it myself eventually anyway). Games are a form of entertainment, and while some are going to be there to be played whenever I want, others are not. I’m a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes consulting detective, and that only has ten cases in the box but every time I’ve played it I’ve had a great time.
Playing Pandemic Legacy gives me the same sort of feeling as binging on a tv show. I play with my two friends Dave and Dan, and we had a run where we just didn’t want to stop. Sometimes new things get added into the game in the middle of the game, other times it happens in between. The game comes with some secret dossiers and a whole legacy deck that adds new characters and all kinds of cool things, which I’m obviously not going to go into here (and it’s kind of a pertinent discussion about spoilers since Star Wars came out last week, and I’ve read more than a few reports about people spoiling the movie for others. I haven’t heard any reports of that happening with this game) but they make you want to keep playing.
I have to be honest and say that I wasn’t a huge fan of Pandemic before I played this, and it was mostly the legacy aspect that attracted me to the game. We played one normal game to get the rules straight in our minds before delving into the main campaign, and that game was alright, but once we started the campaign I was hooked. So far it seems a bit different from Risk Legacy in that there are more things added to the game, it feels much more active (although admittedly I have a long way to go with Risk Legacy). Naming characters is cool, as is naming the diseases if you eradicate them. The game is straightforward enough that the rules are easy to keep straight, and the new ones that get added so far haven’t added any major complexity.
I always get a thrill when we get to open a new packet and we all take turns. It’s a little strange to write this many words on a game without actually talking about what happens in the game, but I think that speaks to the strength of the experience it provides. The three of us were huddled around the table, pumping our fists in triumph or holding our head in our hands as things got out of control, discussing what to do next, then laughing in disbelief at something we just read on a new card.
I can’t recommend this highly enough to be honest. I know it’s a steep price, but if I were you I’d suggest splitting it between the people you play with. Obviously I can’t say if it’s going to be worth it for you, but I think if you’re on the fence about this because you’re not a big fan of Pandemic then that’s not so much an issue. The game is continually evolving so it doesn’t have that ‘samey’ feel that comes with the regular game. The legacy aspect feels such a natural fit with the theme that now it’s hard for me to imagine Pandemic without it. It works so well, and flows so seamlessly. Already we have a narrative forming and there’s still a little over half a year to go, so I can’t imagine what’s going to happen next, and I can’t wait to find out.
What do you think? Are you put off by the idea of only being able to play a game a certain amount of times? Do you not like Pandemic at all? Have you played it and thought that the game is totally overrated?